You can read this post as a stand-alone article, but it will make much more sense if you read Part 1 first.
It has felt as if we have been swimming upstream against the currents of our modern society. Our society and especially our economy encourages people to accumulate and accumulate and accumulate until we are forced to pack our garages, get storage units or even buy bigger homes just to make sure we can keep all our stuff.
We just made the choice to attempt to live a lifestyle where we only acquire things that are essential. It really is amazing to think about how little you need when you evaluate everything you purchase and keep as essential vs non-essential.
As promised in Part 1, I wanted to share my observations and valuable lessons that I have learned as we have traveled this very odd but cool journey:
People Are Fascinated By Our Lifestyle
But people really do not understand how or why we live the life we live.
Everyone that we talk to says that they would love to do what we do. Travel and live free and see the world and just go wherever we feel led to go. Then they pause and think for a few seconds and then the reasons "why not" begin to flow into their brain and out of their mouth.
They say something like, "I can never do what you are doing because..."
My kids have to be in this particular school system
I have a great job and I can't leave it
Our business keeps me trapped in this location
I have to work here for another 10 years before I retire
I only have 12 more years before I pay off my mortgage and then this beautiful 1800 square foot ranch in suburban Muskogee OK will be mine
We could never leave here because BLANK lives here (in the BLANK insert Mama, Daddy, Great Grandma, our 29 year old son Junior, our grandkids, etc...)
Our children need us
I will stay here until I die
I do not mean to belittle any of those responses, but a few years ago I was begging the Lord to use me in a big way and he told me that he could not send me anywhere because I was too attached to my location and my stuff. That was when we began the process of eliminating those things that keep us tied down. It took almost 3 years, but when we had removed all of our encumbrances of location and things, He started showing us how exciting life could be. And, that was only the beginning.
Life Is Simpler
For all the advancements we have in our modern lives, we have also created complications.
I appreciate tools that make my life easier, but the more electronic devices we have, the more they have to be charged, synced protected, and updated. The more things we have, the more they have to be stored, insured, paid for, cleaned, and protected. The less you have, the simpler life is.
Stop Being Controlled By Money
Many people are controlled and consumed by money whether they have millions in the bank or 2 nickels in their pocket.
It seems as if I have been chasing money most of my life. There are times that I caught a bunch of it. There have also been times that it seemed to allude and run away from me the more I chased.
It is very difficult to describe the mental changes that have occurred over the past few years. It may be that I have just matured. It may be that I reached a low point when some businesses failed. Or, it may be that I finally stopped putting money on a pedestal.
We all have idols in our lives. I think that the process of earning (sometimes chasing) financial success was an idol for me. I also think that it is an idol for many people in our current society. It is so liberating to just relax, not be anxious and enjoy life. To be able to have control over money instead of letting it have control over me and my thought processes. Now money and business and blessings seem to just find me.
Do Not Let Things Own You
Things are related to money.
They can take on a life of their own when we begin to fear that we may not have as many things as we should. Possibly because of our self image or possibly because of ego. Or, when we hold on to things because we think they have value that is either real or perceived. Or worse, we put some sentimental value on a item because it was Grandma's or Junior's or it reminds us of our high school days. So we store it and keep it or we put it on a shelf to collect dust. And many times, the longer we keep it the harder it is to let it go.
People have value. Experiences have value.
Things only have value when people give them value. In our modern world many people put more value on their stuff than they put on other people.
Experiences & Relationships Really Are More Important Than Things & Money
Glori and I were in a car in the middle of the south island of New Zealand. We were driving for almost an hour down a gravel road toward a valley that was 2 miles wide and 10 miles long but completely surrounded by snow capped mountains. With a beautiful flowing river running through the middle.
It was Mt Sunday which was the location where Peter Jackson filmed the scenes for Rohan in his Lord of the Rings movies.
A longtime friend from high school and his wife were in the car with us. The drive was stunning. The views from the valley were breathtaking. Take your breath away "How Great Thou Art" beautiful. We spent almost 3 hours in the valley and never saw another car or another person. Complete solitude. Not an easy place to get to. No ticket booth. No gift shop. No long lines. No parking lot. No amusement park. Just me and my wife with some friends in a secluded spot on the planet. Very few people ever visit this place. Money was not involved. Things were not even a consideration.
It was 100% experience and sharing that experience.
I am confident that we would have never been to Mt Sunday or even New Zealand nor would our friends have travelled across the world to visit us if we had not started on this journey a few years ago.
It was a priceless.
Experiences and sharing experiences with people you love and care for have a much higher value than money and things. It is critical that we limit the control that material items have on our lives so that we can appreciate what we have experienced and the people we have in our lives.
The Spiritual Journey Is The Most Important Thing
Material things seem to clutter our minds and keep us from gaining a better understanding of the bigger picture of life.
Life is so much better when your primary focus is nurturing and growing your relationship with the Lord instead of being anxious about buying things you cannot afford to impress people you do not even like. Or acquiring things that become a burden to you and your family instead of a blessing.
Worry and anxiety will eat a person alive physically, mentally and spiritually. It seems that money and thinking about money that you do or do not have is the root of much of the anxiety that people experience in the world.
In Luke 6:25-34 Jesus talks about worry and anxiety while teaching on the side of a mountain. He basically says do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will wear or even about tomorrow. When we are able to relax our mind and stop worrying about things and accumulation, we can focus on the kingdom that Jesus teaches about in this sermon.
Total Contentment & Happiness Is Possible
It is very difficult to be content...and therefore happy...when you are in constant pursuit of something that really is impossible to obtain.
The way the economic system continues to flourish is that new and more improved and better things are created and offered so that we constantly feel the need to upgrade. That is not a bad thing in and of itself. But, it is bad when the upgraded model or the "new and improved" begins to consume us to the point that we are constantly yearning for something better. Never being content with where we are. When a person steps off that vicious treadmill it slows life down and one begins to realize that the upgrade or the newest version may not make life better.
True happiness and contentment begins to be attained when we are comfortable with who we are, who we are with, where we are, what we have and who's we are. Not needing external accumulation to briefly satisfy us so that we can get a temporal burst of satisfaction is a nice place to be. "Home" (and happiness) really is where you make it.
The Essentialist Lifestyle Is Not for Everyone
As a disclaimer I should say that I am in no way saying that everyone should live the way I live.
You should seek your own course and path in everything you do.
I do know that there are millions of miserable people trudging through life on this earth, and many of them have a nice, big comfortable home with 5 flatscreen TV's and 3 nice cars in the garage. And most have become slaves to those things. Or they have become slaves to jobs and debt so that can pay for those things. It is time for them to break that cycle, if they so desire.
My purpose of writing this article is not to say my way of living is better than your way of living or any other way of living for that matter. My purpose is to encourage people to seek a life of purpose that is not controlled by material things.
Home is not a place or a structure or even a place with a bed. It is a mindset that should allow you to be peaceful and at rest.
I am not sure that I have reached that place of total peace. I am confident that I am much closer than I have ever been, and I expect this journey to continue adding more and more peace to my life.
While it is difficult to capture our journey in a succinct way, there is one word that jumps into my mind every time I get a question or I give thanks for where we are in life. That one word is simply "freedom."